This is not a club.
There have been hundreds of exclusive, elitist car clubs, brands, and publications which have come and gone during the existence of this community. That is not the idea here. It seems like every 20-35 year old with a local social media presence who is into cars suddenly wakes up one day and thinks they are going to be the savior of the culture with some new tagline or brand. I’ll address that here: I have absolutely zero intention of doing this for any kind of personal gain. This has been a longtime point of discussion for many of us, and no one person can take credit for it. We are simply re-establishing an environment that upholds quality & respect among enthusiasts.
Some of you are hung up on the name. The term “gatekeeping” has developed a negative connotation since the seemingly recent demise of quality in automotive culture. I grew up in NH, where there is an insane concentration of heavy-hitting OGs who build rad cars, and they are damn proud of that work, as they should be. I can remember being 17, 18 years old looking at certain cars at shows and thinking to myself, “damn I hope I can achieve something like that someday.”
That kind of motivation has been lost these days. Kids are now more focused on going viral with garbage quality parts slapped onto barely put together cars for the sake of attention on the internet. Believe what you like, but social media, Tik Tok in particular, seems to promote a certain level of half-assery. It is an indisputable fact that there are standards in this culture which have fallen to the wayside. And the new defense for when disappointment is expressed over cut corners is simply to say “that’s gatekeeping bro, that ain’t cool, respect all builds”. I think it is safe to say we can be dispensed with the “respect all builds” mentality. And don’t get it twisted - people are still doing insanely cool things with cars, that never went away. It’s just a shame to see such an influx of trash recently.
“But why do you care so much about what other people are doing?”
Good question, and not an easy one to answer. It’s not so much that we care what you do to your car. Throw hydraulics under a Kia, put stickers all over your fender, paint your entire engine bay flat black if that’s what you want to do. But there’s an old saying that my Dad hammered into my brain when I was younger, and it goes something like, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” It’s more so that idea that you can just throw a few hundred dollars into an eBay shopping cart and now you have a build that demands respect for, I don’t know, some made up reason. I think that’s really what we are all sick to death of. You have to understand, there are people out there actually BUILDING cars. I have done little more in my life than suspension, wheels, light engine modification, and interior customization. I know my comfort zone, and I leave the difficult work I don’t understand to the professionals. I wouldn’t call anything I’ve ever owned a “build”. I’ll also say here, I’ve had some pretty garbage cars. A lot of you know me because of the yellow E30 and that car was an abomination, admittedly. Was it fun scraping everywhere? Oh hell yeah. I fondly remember replacing oil pans on a monthly basis. But if you were to judge what I’m writing now off of my choices with that car, I would be a hypocrite. I’ve learned a lot since 2017, and have moved on to a higher level of execution.
The point is, your tik-tok famous FRS with self-tapped, wavy overfenders, ESRs, spiky eBay lug nuts, NRG wheel and broken heart stickers just ain’t a build, man. Maybe that’s all you can afford, maybe that’s all you are capable of doing. And that’s fine. I will never demean a person for their position in life. I’ve been there. I’ve lived in my car. I’ve had literal pocket change to my name. It’s the moment when you decide internally that you are owed respect for putting out shoddy work that makes it not cool. We don’t respect it, and we don’t have to. That mentality is poisoning a community that was founded on dignity and mutual respect. Look at any of the OG cars from the glory days of H2Oi, Sowo, etc. Hard work went into those cars, and it was a different era. It’s time to bring back an appreciation for that level of workmanship and attention to detail.
“So if this ain’t a club, what is it?”
Gatekeepers is really just an idea. An idea that, if we all work together and make an effort to promote quality over quantity again, we might be able to turn the scene back around.
Another facet to this that I’m really excited about is taking a deeper look into the people behind the cars. Each and every one of us has a story. In a world where all we have to do is open an app and look at pictures and videos of cars, I feel like that human element is lost these days. You used to have to approach another human being and physically ask them about their car. Those conversations often led to the history behind them. And we used to live for that kind of interaction. Anybody that says they’re not in it for attention is lying to some degree. I personally will never get enough of some kid coming up to me at a gas station saying “this is my dream car” or some old man puttering around a show saying “I had one of these in 1990”. That’s the kind of content I miss - the when, why and how. The life events, the tragedies, the comedies, the chain of events that eventually brought us all to the same parking lot or event center.
Eventually, I see a website run by the community where we have the chance to share all of those stories.
I’m not here to make a name for myself, I’m not here to make money off of some bullshit lifestyle brand. Some of you will downright hate this idea simply because it’s me. Some of you will go out of your way to make a personal attack, some of you already have. And that is totally cool. This is still just the internet, and they are still just words, and I will still just laugh it off. Those that get it, get it. And if you can’t get down with the core motive, regardless of the name, regardless of who’s involved, then maybe you’re not for the culture in the first place. That said, I don’t want to do this by myself. I have already been in dialogue with plenty of writers, photographers and enthusiasts who have expressed an interest to some degree or other. In my wildest dreams, this will grow beyond my capabilities, and I’ll be in over my head. If that happens, I will need page admins and media editors. Perhaps this will fizzle out and die within a few months due to lack of interest. But so far the support and engagement has been great. Again, it’s not my idea. I’ve had this conversation with dozens of people over the last few years and this is the culmination of that.